Americans Want New Debt Supercommittee To Compromise

Six in 10 Americans say members of the new bipartisan “supercommittee” mandated to find new ways of reducing the federal budget deficit should compromise, even if the agreement reached is one they personally disagree with.

This includes a majority of Republicans, independents, and Democrats. A majority of Tea Party supporters, however, say the committee should hold out for a plan they agree with, even if no agreement is reached.

The debt ceiling legislation passed last week mandates Congress to appoint 12 members of the new bipartisan Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction by Aug. 16. The committee has until Nov. 23 to develop its proposals for reducing the deficit.

Standard and Poor’s downgrading of the U.S. credit rating on Friday, along with the generally downward movement of the stock market in recent weeks, may have reinforced Americans’ pre-existing preference for political compromise. Democrats (67%) are the most inclined to say the committee should seek compromise, but a majority of Republicans (55%) and independents (57%) agree.

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Among the one in four Americans who identify themselves as “supporters of the Tea Party movement,” 53% would rather have lawmakers hold out for a plan they agree with, while 41% advocate compromise. Fourteen per cent of Americans view themselves as strong Tea Party supporters, and 58% of this group (about 31% of all Republicans) takes the hard-line stance.

Increasing Taxes Leads Among Five Potential Approaches to Reduce Federal Debt
Asked about potential approaches the subcommittee may consider to reduce federal debt, a majority of Americans support increasing taxes on higher-income Americans, increasing tax revenues by making major changes to the current federal tax code, and cutting federal programs other than Medicare, Social Security, and defence. Less than half support the idea of cutting either defence spending or Medicare and Social Security costs as a way to reduce the deficit.

There is little consensus across political lines on any of these five approaches, underscoring the difficulties ahead for the bipartisan supercommittee. A majority of Republicans favour two of the approaches—cutting spending other than defence, Social Security, or Medicare, and changing the tax code to increase revenues. A majority of Democrats agree on the idea of reforming the tax code, but also favour increasing income taxes on upper-income Americans and cutting defence spending.

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Taken as a whole, Americans clearly want their elected representatives in Washington to reach a compromise on the next step in the efforts to reduce the federal deficit. While the relatively small segment of the population that supports the Tea Party favours holding out for a plan they agree with, a majority of Republicans, independents, and Democrats mandate compromise.

There are, however, strongly divergent opinions across political lines on the issue of exactly how to reduce the deficit. Republicans and Democrats agree on the idea of reforming the tax code to bring in more revenues, but disagree on other proposals.

The federal budget legislation passed last week mandated that defence and Medicare would be cut back if the new supercommittee is not able to reach an agreement on a different plan, and if a balanced budget amendment is not passed. A majority of independents and Democrats would accept cutting defence spending, but Republicans would not. On the other hand, less than half of any political group other than the Tea Party favours cutting back on Medicare and Social Security.

Survey Methods

Results for this USA Today/Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Aug. 4-7, 2011, with a random sample of 1,319 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

This post originally appeared at Gallup.